Evans v. Fidelity & Guar. Ins. Co. – Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and Workers’ Compensation

Not all debilitating work injuries occur suddenly or are life-threatening. In some cases, injuries that occur over time can be equally devastating.
Work injury lawyers know the fact is, anyone who suffers any work-related condition has the right to collect benefits.

One of the more common repetitive-motion injuries, particularly for those who work desk jobs, is carpal tunnel syndrome. This is a condition that causes numbness,weakness and tingling and loss of use in the hands, usually caused by a pinched nerve in the wrist. It can result in difficulty gripping items, carrying things, moving the fingers or severe pain in the palm and hands. Those who frequently type, use a cash register or slice, press or push objects without enough rest breaks are going to be especially vulnerable.

Sometimes it’s the result of some pre-existing health condition, but most often, it occurs because of hand use patterns at work.

Fortunately, most people can recover from carpal tunnel with the proper treatment, but it requires workers taking it seriously – and the time and care to heal – in order for those treatments to be effective.

In the case of Evans v. Fidelity & Guar. Ins. Co., the question wasn’t whether the carpal tunnel syndrome was a compensable treatment, but rather to what degree it was compensable.

Here, the funeral services employee with a 10th-grade education had worked at the same company his whole life with little other training asserted that his impairment award should not be capped. However, both the trial court and, eventually the state supreme court, disagreed, apportioning him a 10.5 percent permanent partial disability rating in his right arm. Permanent partial benefits are intended to aid workers whose full capacity to work has been diminished, but who are still able to work. The degree to which a person is compensated depends on the severity of the injury, as well as the estimated loss of future earnings or loss on actual and ongoing wages.

The burden of proof is on the worker in these cases to show that the carpal tunnel system was caused by the job and not some outside factor (or a second job).

In the Evans case, there had been little argument about whether work was the cause. The issue was to which part of the body the injury should have been assigned (and in turn, how much compensation should be awarded). This might seem like a fairly straightforward thing, but consider that an injury to the thumb creates and impairment on the hand which creates and impairment to the arm. While a thumb might be considered 100 percent disabled, the arm might only be considered 20 percent disabled. The difference in categorization will affect the overall amount of benefits.

The court ultimately affirmed the decision of the lower court, which was to apportion the injury to the arm, rather than the thumb.

If you are injured on the job in Boston, call Jeffrey Glassman Injury Lawyers for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your workers’ compensation claim– (617) 777-7777.

Additional Resources:
Evans v. Fidelity & Guar. Ins. Co., April 16, 2014, Tennessee Supreme Court
More Blog Entries:
Small Business Owners Mention Workplace Safety as a Top Concern, Feb. 27, 2014.

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